Hosting has become its own genre of standup. It takes a certain person to usher a show along. You can’t just read what’s on the prompter or script; you’ve got to make it your own.
Jeff Dye has been in doing comedy for over a decade and it looks like he has a handle on everything. He’s a seasoned touring comic. He’s worked alone on stage, shepherding a bunch of teens to tell their parents about a sexual encounter. He’s even gone to Tokyo with Henry Winkler and William Shatner. Dye’s been through the ringer. I had a chance to talk to him about his past year in comedy.
2016 was kind of a breakout of sort for you. You performed on the Tonight Show, you’re hosting a game show, and you did Lip Sync Battle. How was doing all of that in such a short span of time?
Jeff Dye: It’s been great. I always try to stay super, super, super busy. Getting to do that and then shooting Better Late Than Never – I literally felt like I had no time to myself. It was great. All the stuff I get to do for work is fun. So it’s kind of like I had the most fun all year. It’s great.
Even with all of these hosting gigs, does regular standup still have the same rush for you?
Dye: Yeah because it’s completely…there’s no rules in standup. In standup, I can say whatever I want, do whatever I want. There’s no script. I guess there’s kind of a call time. But it’s 8 PM at night. It’s creatively liberating because you get to do whatever you want up there.
Does it ever get difficult to balance touring and hosting at the same time?
Dye: Yeah. I don’t know how to explain it. The road will always be difficult. [laughs] So touring is a whole different beast. The more touring you do, the less you have to be on the road. For 2016, I was on the road less than I ever was for my career because of all the TV stuff. It’s a welcomed distraction getting to be on TV more.
Did you have to switch gears since you weren’t touring that much to go be this TV persona? When Chris Hardwick is hosting, he has an agenda to be on @midnight. When he’s onstage, he has an hour to be himself and do what he wants.
Dye: Yeah. The good thing about the stuff I’ve been on – Lip Sync Battle, the Tonight Show, Better Late Than Never, [That Awkward Game Show] – [I’ve] kind of been booked to be myself. I’m just being silly and saying dumb stuff and trying to make people laugh. There’s not that much of a switch when you see me host, do my standup or see any of my characters. I’m very much always my silly, goofball self.
We’ve mentioned it already but how is That Awkward Game Show?
Dye: It’s fun. I like it but it’s always uncomfortable for me, which is why it’s called That Awkward Game Show. I would never play this game with my parents. I would never have them on. Never in a million years. I think that’s why I’m such a good fit for the host. Every day I’m so shocked about what they’re talking about and what they’re revealing. I’m squeamish when they tape. I’m always thinking “these people are nuts! I would never say this to my mom or let my dad know this about me.” Every day when I go to work on that, it’s shocking for me.
Is that stuff real? You’re right. I’m reacting just like you. It’s so strange to see those kids acting so nonchalant with their parents.
Dye: It is 100% real. Everything on there is 100%. The only thing not accurate on there is their clothes. They didn’t choose those clothes. Hair and wardrobe made them dress better for television. But those are real kids and real parents. They’re really sharing those things. It is fun and exciting and equally mortifying.
You do young stuff like this but, when you do Better Late Than Never, that’s clearly for an older generation. It’s got four of the greatest media personalities in history. How is traveling with those guys?
Dye: It’s fun, man. Those guys have become fathers to me. That show has become my favorite thing that I’ve ever worked on in my life. I get to see the world and we get to bond with each other. And also, people don’t talk about this as much so I don’t usually say this but…they’re so wealthy and successful and they don’t need the show. They’re doing it because they want to do the show, which brings a fun energy to it.
And they don’t have to take orders from anyone because they’re so successful. If they don’t want to do something, they just tell the director and producer “Nah, I’m not doing that.” Every other show I’ve worked on, if we don’t want to do something, we bite our lip and just do it. It’s cool to be with those guys because they don’t do anything they don’t want to do.
In a few episodes, you see George Foreman just disappear. You guys say “he went back to the hotel to sleep.” It’s so great to see that.
Dye: [laughs] Yeah, there’s been so many times the producer pitched something to us and then you’ll hear Terry say “I’m not doing that!” They’re not shy about saying “that sounds stupid; we’re not doing that.” So I kind of get to piggy back on them and say “Yeah! We’re not doing that…”
When do you guys hook back up with each other?
Dye: We leave for season two in a couple months. We don’t know where we’re going or anything. They try to keep a lot of that stuff from us. There’s been talks of India, Cuba and Europe. Literally nothing concrete. They might not even know. If they do know, they definitely haven’t told us.
Since you’re a touring comic, and since you’ve gone to the East [thanks to the show], do you think you’ll try your hand at international touring?
Dye: I would love that. I would love to play anywhere in England. The Edenborough Festival. All those kinds of things. Ever since I started comedy, that’s been a goal of mine. All those other English places as well. That would be a dream come true.